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#cheap rail travel

Cheap train tickets transport for less

Chiara Cavaglieri

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Autumn is here but don t mope and moan about it get on a train and see a bit more of good old Blighty! Come rain or shine now’s a great time to book cheap train tickets and get away while you can! Prices may have gone up recently, but buying your train tickets early could save you literally hundreds of pounds. We re often asked where can I find the cheapest train tickets? so we’ve put together the golden rules on how to save money on train travel plus we’ve collected the best money-off deals around.

Current travel deals!

As well as finding cheaper tickets on their websites, individual train companies also often have loads of fantastic deals on offer. Many of these will be sent out each week in a special newsletter, so it’s worth signing up to see how much you can save.


  • Get 2 for 1 entry on loads of top London attractions including London Zoo, London Aquarium and Madame Tussauds.
  • 2 for 1 Kent offers, with 2 for 1 deals on entry into Canterbury Cathedral, and Leeds Castle among others.
  • Get a weekender ticket which allows passengers to travel over the weekend at a reduced cost.

East Coast:

  • Special offers on top attractions, shows, and restaurants in London;

For loads more great deals check out their special offers page, and sign up to their newsletter to be the first to hear about any new deals.

First Great Western:

  • 2 for 1 offers on top attractions in London
  • 2 for 1 offers on restaurants, hotels and attractions in loads of historic cities including Bath, Bristol, Oxford and Salisbury.

Sign up to their newsletter to be the first to read about any special offers!

Cross Country:

  • WIN free train tickets! Exclusive to registered customers, every time you sign in and buy tickets you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win FREE train tickets.
  • Get 2 for 1 meals with the Gourmet Society, or 25% off food and drink at thousands of top restaurants.

For further deals sign up to their newsletter.

Red Spotted Hanky: For fantastic savings and benefits start using Red Spotted Hanky. It s a great new site that lets you book your train tickets quickly and easily and saves passengers an average of 51% compared with buying the tickets in the station on the day of travel.

On top of all that, there are no extra fees for booking or delivery (apart from next day delivery) and you can earn loyalty points that can then be used to knock money off the cost of future tickets!

There are seven golden rules to bear in mind when looking to save money on train tickets:

Rule One: Buy early and avoid the walk-on fares

Complicated ticket names are a thing of the past there are now just three categories for all tickets, (whether they are single or return, standard or first class): Advance, Off-peak and Anytime.

Advance tickets are where the real savings can be made. If you can avoid it, never turn up on the day you wish to travel and buy your ticket there and then, book early and you can avoid the extortionate walk-on fares.

  • The best time to book is between 10 and 12 weeks before you plan to travel this is when tickets are first released and the prices are at their lowest.
  • Don’t worry if you can’t book that early. Surprisingly, some advance tickets are actually still available at a reduced rate up to 6pm the night before, so you can still make significant savings.
  • The good news is that you can use any railcards on advance tickets, making the price even cheaper!

The only downfall to buying an advance ticket is that you’ll be tied to a specific time, date and train. So if you’re willing to be less flexible you can slash your costs.

Rule Two: Buy online for extra savings is the best place to start planning your journey, as it covers all train routes. You can find out prices, the quickest routes, train times and even book your tickets all through this site.

If you can, find out which train company you’ll be travelling with and check the websites of the operators and third party retailers (like the Trainline or Raileasy) for special offers. There’s also a great discount site run by National Rail called Days Out Guide which is worth checking – they’ve got a free newsletter that delivers all the latest deals and offers straight to your inbox.

Find all the contact details and websites for UK train operators on the National Rail website.

Ticket Alerts

Sign up to online ticket alerts to be the first to know when Advance tickets go on sale:

  • Cross Country
  • East Coast Trains
  • The Trainline

Online Discounts

There are also often online discounts and website only special offers so check out the train companies websites to pick up any extra discounts.

Here are some of the major online booking sites:

  • East Coast Trains: They cover travel along the east coast from London to Edinburgh passing through York, Leeds and Newcastle. There don’t charge any booking fees, and you can get a 10% discount for buying online.
  • Megatrain: If you book early enough there are sometimes £1 fares (plus 50p booking fee) up for grabs through Megatrain, they cover destinations from Inverness to Penzance so you may well pick up a great bargain.
  • The Trainline: Has a £1 booking fee and charges a flat fee of £3.50 for credit card payments. This fee can be avoided if you book by debit card.
  • Raileasy: Has a £1 booking fee on a purchase over £10 or a £2 fee for purchases under £10, plus a 50p debit card fee. However, because it charges 2.5% for credit card purchases instead of a flat fee, it will be cheaper than The Trainline for smaller credit card purchases.
  • SouthernRailyway: Has a £5 return ticket for bookings made far enough in advance and £1 off-peak travel for kids under 15. Three or four friends can travel for the price of two, saving everyone 50%.

If you can be flexible The Trainline has a best fare finder. To use it you need to enter your destination and when you re thinking of travelling. The tool will then find you the cheapest day and time to travel.

You can choose to see results for up to three months depending on how flexible you are. This clever little tool is perfect if you’re more concerned about how much you want to save rather than when you go and is perfect for students who can use it to decide when the best time to visit home and friends without forking out a fortune.

Rule Three: Check your ticket options

Single vs Return

Sometimes it may actually be cheaper to buy two singles rather than a return ticket. When you re booking compare the price of two singles to a return ticket and make sure you re not paying more than you need to. If you can’t be bothered to do this yourself, National Rail will do it for you, automatically suggesting the cheapest combination of tickets.

Season Ticket s

You can use the season ticket calculator on the National Rail website to work out how much a season ticket will cost you. You can buy them at any station but you need to take a recent passport-sized photograph along with you.

You can buy a season ticket for seven days (you get unlimited travel between certain points for a set price), one month (cheaper than four seven day season tickets) or for over one month (up to one year). If you travel everyday this almost always works out as the cheapest option, so check all your options before you buy.

Keep an eye out for expected price rises and try to renew it before the new prices take affect.

Special tip for  Eurostar travellers

If you travel to Paris or Brussels or one of the other Eurostar destinations for business, you may find it cheaper to get two return tickets instead of just the one. Strange, yes, but in some cases it works. If, for example, you want to go to Paris on a Tuesday morning and come back on a Wednesday night, the Eurostar computer will be able to tell that you re probably a business client and it won t show you the cheaper tickets.

However, if you book a return ticket to Paris on the Tuesday morning returning two weeks later, and then a separate one coming back on Wednesday night and returning a week or so later, each time it will assume that you re a tourist and will show you the cheapest tickets. You could find that not only are the two tickets cheaper than the one but you can offer the unused returns to friends. Actually, some people have even sold the unused portions because the tickets themselves are rarely checked. It s just your passport they look at.

Of course you may find that the prices are the same, but it’s definitely worth checking out to see if the tickets are much cheaper.

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